Hard Justice(2)

By: Lori Foster


Alarmed, her father corrected, “But not too close.”

“Just close enough, then.”

“No one is to get too cozy with her either.”

“No cozy shenanigans,” he said. “Got it.”

“She’s naive and doesn’t understand that thugs—” here her father paused for effect, his narrowed gaze on the man “—might try to use her to get to her wealth.”

“Yeah? That’s happened before?”

“Well...no.” Her father harrumphed in that familiar way that showed his annoyance. “But it’s a very real concern.”

“Anyone know her itinerary?” the man asked.

“Even we don’t know it,” her mother explained.

“That’s good then. Not like anyone can plan to use her if they don’t know where she’ll be.” The bodyguard sounded accepting of all the rules. “Don’t sweat it.”

Fallon strangled on a breath. Dear God, he’d just told her mother not to “sweat it.” In her memory, no one had ever spoken to the refined Mrs. Rothschild Wade in such a way.

It was, Fallon decided, somewhat hilarious.

“I realize it all seems extreme,” her father said. “But Fallon is delicate.”

No, I’m not, Fallon wanted to shout. She’d never been delicate, or naive. It was her parents who couldn’t deal, who couldn’t move on. Their worry had all but crippled her—and she’d helped. In trying not to add to their burden, she’d made things worse. For their sake as well as her own, she had to make some changes.

With a note of humor, the big guy replied, “Promise I won’t break her.”

Fallon snickered, but her mother just stared, so her father rushed to reassure her. And Fallon just wanted to get out the door with her hunky new bodyguard before her parents had a complete meltdown.

Tonight was a meet and greet, and hopefully the path to fun and cutting loose and finally being free. Safely. If all went well, if the bodyguard suited her, she’d get to be on her own, living her life without the shackles of the past. Limited freedom, yes. There were some things that, for her, would never change.

She’d had a very sharp reminder of that lately.

However, she could change the scenery. She could change the outlook and her attitude. And she would.

When she reached the landing at the top of the curving staircase, she saw that he stood there at the bottom.

Waiting.

Again his gaze trapped her. He had a way of staring that consumed a person. Beside him her father looked small, even though Clayton Wade stood nearly six feet tall and looked very distinguished with his silver-tipped hair and impeccable manner.

Holding the handrail and attempting a smile, Fallon started down.

“You will remember your place,” her father said to the man.

Oh, dear God. Mortified, Fallon wailed, “Dad.”

“My place?” the man asked.

“As an avuncular escort who will, at all costs, ensure her safety.”

Fallon wanted to disappear. Did her father honestly think that massive hunk of macho man would be attracted to her?

He looked merely confused, not insulted, so she rushed to move beyond her father’s awkward reprimand.

“You’re my protection detail?”

“Afraid so.”

What did that mean? Did he regret the assignment already—or was he expecting her to regret him? She waited, but he said nothing else, just tracked her every step as she descended.

Her father broke the silence. “Justice Wallington, meet my daughter, Fallon Wade. Fallon, Mr. Wallington is the security I’ve hired from the very respected Body Armor Agency.”

As she got closer, she said, “Mr. Wallington,” in formal acknowledgment.

“Justice will do, Ms. Wade.” His gaze skipped quickly down her body, then forcefully back to her face. He looked to be concentrating.

Did he just check me out? Fallon wasn’t at all sure, but it felt like it and her voice went squeaky again. “All right. Then you must call me Fallon.”

He tugged at a thickened ear. “Works for me. I’m not much for ceremony.”

That prompted her father to start lecturing again. “She is not to be out of your sight.”

“I’ll keep an eye on her.”

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